Chapter 2       

Among Giants Image 1.png

 Seraph had begun to search for birds during her time in this particular forest, which in early winter provided a roost for hundreds, if not thousands, a year, all making the great trek from parts further north to whatever lands might lie far to the south. With dexterous fingers she would trill a few notes on her whistle, and inquisitive ones fluttered to her fingertips or serenade her from nearby branches. Seraph would wait until each tree was blanketed with dozens of birds, and then begin to play very slowly, tentatively, until she was surrounded by silence. After a few moments exploring the trickle of sweet melody, her hands would begin to hasten, and the rivulet of music became a gurgling river, then a vast expanse of ocean, ever changing as her fingers played at their own accord. Then, quiet, as she cocked her head and listened. The birds never mimicked the song, but instead built upon it: their voices were her orchestra, hers their conductor. Seraph had whittled the flute herself from a white branch lying of the forest floor, sculpting each arc and dip until she could make it sing like a bird, or whirl with enough force to shout down all but the strongest of winds. She had, in more recent months, begun to envision the designs for an instrument which would mimic the voices of humans, but for such an intricate device she would need to travel far and wide in search of parts, and at the moment she was imprisoned; It would be impossible to travel such a distance in time to avoid becoming stranded in the oncoming dead of winter. However, to perfect her craft she had to test its merit among those to whom it came naturally, so into the forest she went every day, once the sun had nearly completed its arc across the sky. Unlike the harsh, clammy dawn, the early evening found the fog soft and enveloping, muffling each note as Seraph played it. Whenever she walked in fog as thick as this, Seraph could vividly recall an old human folktale of an elderly man who disappeared every night, only to return pale as ice as the sun first peeked over the horizon, never telling his children or grandchildren where he had vanished to, although each morning he became weaker and weaker. Finally, when the man was near death, one of his youngest grandchildren approached him. "Grandfather," he cried, "Wherefore in the wilderness goest thou come nightfall, and why venture you not forth until the brilliant sun doth shake free the night from her golden tresses?" The old man, so the tale was told, merely shook his head and murmured, "A lad your age shalt question not his elders, no matter the earnesty which lies within his words. So seal thy lips, still kissed with youth, and ask no further." So the obedient child was silent, and from then on did not question him on the matter. That night, he slipped out the door and followed him. For miles the two traveled across the tundra, until at last the old man came to a clearing, ringed with enormous spires of rock. But when the boy came to the clearing, a dense fog, like the one Seraph walked in now, had descended. Still, he could make out his grandfather in the arms of another, one who seemed to be made from mist. At some point in the night, the ghostly figure spoke, words driving spikes of fear that seized the child’s heart: "My husband, dost thou not ache to feel my sweet lips in thine, after such arduous years as those which thou hast lived?" Three times she besought him with the question, and twice he refused. But on the third he merely sighed and conceded, "Perhaps the time indeed hath come, for I am the man I was no longer, nor e’er will I be." It was said that as the boy gazed on, the ghostly woman embraced the elderly man, and carried him into the sky until they reached the heavens. The man who had told Seraph that yarn had been a very close companion of hers before one of his children found her chest of herbs and potives and was seized with a passionate desire to test the potency of one of her more...potent concoctions. After some similar occurrences, she had been forced to travel several villages north, to the edge of the Great Forest from whence she came, so long ago.

Smiling, Seraph lifted her lips to the flute and let it echo through the forest.  Something was awry. Her fingers had done their most magnificent work in months, swirling wisps of rhythm through the trees before sweeping into sheer canyons of melody, yet not a soul had answered her call save herself, echoed by the walls of mist enveloping her. In fact, her ears had not filled with birdsong in some time. She thought it had been since before she had rubbed the last streaks of dark stag's blood from her knife in a nearby brook, somehow still unfrozen though most of the forest was laden with snow, if not before that. Seized by a terrifying conviction, Seraph slowly knelt, pressing one pale ear against a rare patch of exposed ground. Her heart began to race, and she only dimly registered the wisps of snow tumbling past her. An avalanche.